...to the greatest adventure of your lifeBY NATHAN LITTLEFIELD
So, you made it—first that letter from
Yale, then graduating from high school. Four years of your life in the bag, and
you’re on the brink of something new. Perhaps you’re like I was two years
ago, anxious to begin college, biding your time over the summer and counting the
days until that last Friday in August, when you finally step out of your car at
Phelps Gate. Or maybe you’re anxious for a different reason, a little scared
to jump into this huge thing called
Yale and wondering what it will be like to bid goodbye to the family and friends
you’ve grown up with.
Rest assured, Yale is worth the work, wait,
and worry. It’s trite, I know, but you’re about to begin four years unlike
anything you’ve experienced before or will after. I’m not much for
generalizing—and how am I supposed to speak for the lives of a group of
students as varied as those I’ve encountered here?—so I’m hoping my own
experience can shed some light on this place.
I couldn’t wait to get here. I was going to
Yale. More importantly, I was going to college—people from all over the
country, amazing classes, returning to my room at 3 a.m. without having to ease
the door closed to avoid waking my parents. There’s a mystique about college,
and an even bigger one about Yale. Part of the excitement I felt, as I left my
car, came from a strong feeling that I was entering something almost mythic.
And, for a while, it was. During the first
week I felt like I was in constant motion. Meeting people, running around campus
to parties, trying to decide what classes I wanted to take, and signing up for
every activity known to Yale at the Frosh Bazaar had my head spinning—in a
good way. Everything was new and bright. A strange energy filled Old Campus, as
if everything there, from the elms to piles of empty cardboard boxes left over
from moving in, was aglow. This energy continued essentially unabated through
freshman year. Your first year at Yale is a honeymoon. At home again after nine
months, I spent summer wishing school would begin again. It sounds almost
perverse, but that’s freshman year for you.
But another year does a bit to clear the mist
from your eyes. I love this place, and I always will, but the love now has a
different character. The honeymoon’s over, and Ma Yale starts asking you to
write 25-page seminar papers. The social ferment of Old Campus is a block or
more away. Naples ceases to be the place where everybody knows your name
Thursday nights—it’s filled with this year’s freshmen, all as wonderfully
starry-eyed as you were the year before.
However, I discovered what
being at Yale really meant. Those seminar papers, grueling as they may sound,
were some of the most important intellectual experiences of my year. Instead of
waving hello to 30 people every time I left the post office, I found the
friendships that meant the most to me strengthened. And Thursday nights,
formerly filled with bleary socializing, were spent were spent with the Herald,
which proved the source of some of my closest friends, people who mean a great
deal more to me than kids I saw three hours a week over pizza and pitchers. By
the end of sophomore year, Camp Yale was a fond and distant memory, superceded
by the Yale that will be a part of me for the rest of my life.
That’s the beauty of the University. There are as many Yales as there
are Yalies. One of my freshman roommates devoted last year to D.S. and a
capella. Another recorded music on a tape deck in his bedroom, and has since
been offered a record deal with a Yale-based indie label. The third spends his
time with foreign languages and art, and the fourth has dabbled in everything
from photography to American studies. As for me, I’ve been with the Herald
almost since getting here. There’s something at Yale for everybody, and
finding it is just a matter of going about your life and doing what makes you
The moral of this story? You’ve signed on for an experience like no
other. The four years you spend here will change your life in ways you can’t
imagine. From the carnival of freshman year to the triumph of graduation,
you’ll love this place. My first two years here have flown by. In another two,
one of you will likely be sitting where I am, attempting to bound Yale in 800
words, and I’ll be preparing to head on to something else, anxious to go but
sad to leave. College will be one of the most rewarding journeys of your life.
What we want to do with this issue—where you’ll find everything from advice
on schlepping your stuff to New Haven, to what to do on a Saturday night, to
where to get tikka masala, to the lowdown on Bulldog athletics—is get you out
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